The following is an excerpt of a review of Into the Freylakh, written by Sandor Slomovits, which appeared in the March 2003 Ann Arbor Observer.
It is Avant-Jazz night at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, MI. So what is the Klezmer band "Into the Freylakh" doing on stage? Isn't Klezmer, with its roots in medieval Eastern Europe, the music my great-grandparents danced to at their wedding in the old country? Doesn't the intricately ornamented melody spinning out of bandleader Bryan Pardo's clarinet echo the vocal improvisations cantors have chanted for ages in synagogues from Budapest to Brooklyn? Isn't "Rebbe Elimelech, " the Yiddish equivalent of "Old King Cole," which Jennifer Goltz is so gleefully belting out in her sparkling soprano so old that only musicologists can trace its origins? This is cutting-edge music?
But listen some more. Even on the most familiar songs there are surprises...and check out the complex Jazz/Classical influences in the long, look-Ma-only-two-hands piano intro that Isaac Schankler fashions for the simple Israeli folk song "Ma Navu." ....Then there is the Pardo original "Spanakopita." Klezmer in seven? Try dancing the kazatski to that!
As eclectic as all this sounds, Into the Freylakh is actually solidly in the Klezmer tradition. Klezmer has always traded with the musical cultures that surround it. The klezmorim of old listened to the folk and classical music of Eastern Europe. Immigrant Klezmer musicians, transplanted to the New World in the early twentieth century, listened to Tin Pan Alley, Dixieland and Swing. Today's Klezmer practitioners are often conservatory trained (as are the majority of Into the Freylakh) and listen to modern Classical composers and Coltrane.
Freylakh, in Yiddish, means "joy." Into the Freylakh, whatever it is playing, dives into that joy and invites you to join. The New York subways used to have bakery ads that read: " You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's," and you don't have to speak a word of Yiddish, or have grandparents from Galicia, to be moved by this music.